For a long time I’d have been embarrassed to sport a made in China mass produced frame bag like this. Heck I still have some low level guilt about these bags, but I’ll explain why I am using them anyway. First off the reason my bikes sport frame bags at all for day rides is I’ve become a packless riding convert. If I am going to ride my bike and I am not running errands, where I have to pick up or drop off cargo, I don’t want a pack on my back. I’m not trying to convince anyone else that is the RIGHT way to do things, but it is the way that feels right to me. If I am going to ride without a pack I need to get three things on my bike: 1) water, 2) bike tools/pump/spares, and 3) Other cargo like my phone, camera, food, wind jacket, etc…
The water part is easy…give me some water bottle cage mounts…..or even just space in the frame and I’ll get a bottle mounted one way or the other. For summer riding I need second bottle and that usually has to go under the downtube. A less ideal spot due to proximity with the front tire, but in summer there is less crap flying up to hit the bottle. If I can fit that second bottle inside the frame triangle that is of course better. With today’s long bikes that is sometimes a workable solution, which has the benefit of allowing for three bottles [2 inside frame + 1 under DT] when really needed for extended hot weather riding.
Next up tools/pump/spares. These items tend to be heavier and not used unless there is a mechanical…so hopefully not too frequently. There are a number of items I need to store that benefit from being dry…like a multi-tool and a pump. I’ll credit Mr. Melo for showing me that an upside down top tube bag, often, fits nicely inside the frame with a water bottle. These bags exist in many sizes without needing to order a custom product and make good use of the limited space inside a frame. They are a little bit hard to access in this unconventional mounting position due to the orientation of the zipper, but since these bags need to be opened rarely that’s not a problem.
Finally we come to the items you need to access on the ride as you get hungry, want to take a photo/call or want to stash a jacket or put one on. The standard top tube bike bag works really well for this in the normal position behind the stem on top of the top tube. It has the added bonus of distracting/camouflaging the outrageously high steerer/stem positions that are typical on my bikes since I love a high bar and I cannot lie. The only problem I’ve run into is that in order to fit my huge smartphone, food, jacket, and sometimes a P&S camera I need a large TT bag, which limits the options of what I can use. There are tons of small TT bags out there, but only a few larger ones…unless you go custom.
In the past I might have bothered my friend Scott at Porcelain Rocket in Calgary, Alberta, Canada for a custom bag. I know that smaller bags like this are a pain to sew so I felt bad making a request like this, but he was always a trooper and he never said no….even though he might have wanted to. Scott’s out of the bag business these days so that’s not an option. Back before the pandemic I ordered a well made TT bag from Rogue Panda that was a good size and it has worked well on my Daambuilt Mega Krampus bikepacking rig for a few years now. When I needed a couple more TT bags I checked with Rogue Panda, but their website wasn’t allowing TT bag orders so they could focus on custom frame bags. I checked today [mid-Oct 2021] and you can order them again. These bags are nice and the size is great. The zipper works well one handed for access while riding. The trouble is that getting one of these bags to Canada is expensive these days…~$165CAD at my door. Now I am not worried about saving every last penny and I do appreciate the challenges of running a small business making specialty products so I’m not complaining about the pricing so much as noting it as a factor in making a decision on what to do.
When I was helping my friend Chris setup his bike for bikepacking last year he found Rock Bros bike bags on Amazon. I will admit I was skeptical at first, but seeing his bags in person I couldn’t deny that they were well made. They happen to offer a large TT bag that fits my stupid large smartphone and it costs ~$38CAD at my door with about 3 business day delivery. They are also fully welded waterproof construction with waterproof zippers. I’d say for rain they were 100% waterproof. I wouldn’t expect them to keep water out if submerged due to the realities of how zippers work. I needed two bags for my new bike so the choice was between two Rock Bros bags at ~$76CAD or two Rogue Panda bags at ~$330CAD. Due to COVID I couldn’t really buy the RP bags anyways and would have had to wait weeks or months to see them. As you can guess by the title of this review I got the Rock Bros bags.
These bags were initially mounted to my Cotic BFeMAX hardtail back in the summer of 2020. I used them there for a bit over a year. They got moved to my new winter bike a Pipedream Sirius hardtail recently and I expect they see many years more of use. They fit well on both bikes. Leaving room for two water bottles inside the frame. They offer a large useful size [9.3″ x 4.1″ x 2.6″] that can hold everything I need to carry as described above. The fact they are functionally waterproof and made of rugged material are benefits for this application. I can ride my bikes hard through the typically moist Coastal BC winter weather without being concerned my gear is going to get wet or fall off the frame. The bags look pleasing as well. The welded construction is very clean. The attachment straps keep the bags secure with no movement even when smashing the bike through rough terrain. After a lot of use the only sign of wear is some oil stains from getting overly zealous with my chain lube on an upside down bike.
The only real downside I can be critical of is that the waterproof zippers are not easily operable with one hand. They open better than they close. typically I need both hands and my full attention to close the bag. It’s something that annoys me. My Rogue Panda can be opened and closed with one hand easily, but it’s far less waterproof. In general I am happy with the more difficult zipper and the better waterproofing as a trade off, but there are times when do get frustrated at the effort to zip the bag up.
Rock Bros makes other bike bags that are similarly designed and manufactured. I haven’t tried them and I will warn you that it’s far far easier to make a great TT bag than it is to make a great bikepacking bar bag or seat bag so purchase at your own risk. I will be sticking to my excellent Porcelain Rocket bikepacking bags for touring. For mountain biking day rides…especially in winter weather…I think the Rock Bros TT bags are a solid well made product at a low price.
A quick note for those new to the frame bag game…any bag attached to your bike will rub/wear at the finish. You can either install some protective tape beforehand to prevent this or simply let it happen and enjoy the resulting patina that attests to your many adventures together.